I grew up on a property and always wanted to be a National Parks Ranger. I worked hard and managed to become a Ranger in a very competitive industry. Over the years I worked in some amazing places.
When I met my husband, it was a bit later in life. So, we were fortunate that when I had my first child in my mid 30’s, we already owned a house (with a mortgage) and were quite comfortable financially. We both very much wanted to share our lives with children.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. My three pregnancies were horrific, plagued by severe morning sickness and antenatal depression. Some days I could only just manage to crawl to the toilet and if I was lucky, the shower.
When my first baby arrived and the antenatal depression became postnatal depression, I wanted nothing more than my husband at home to help bub and me through the first little while. He took two weeks of holiday pay, arguing that the Dad and Partner Pay is only for two weeks at minimum wage and he didn’t think he should suffer a drop in pay. I would’ve preferred to spend the extra time with him than the extra pay. There’s no incentive for the second parent (particularly men) to take adequate leave.
I took 14 weeks’ leave at full pay which I was entitled to as a state public servant. I had always heard the term ‘double dipping’ in the media with regards to the government’s Parental Leave Pay, so I didn’t apply for it as I thought I’d be seen as being greedy. I also took all of my recreation leave that I had accumulated, along with my long service leave. This equated to about eight months on full pay. I felt very fortunate to spend this time at home with my first baby. Meanwhile, my husband’s long service leave kept accumulating while mine was now down to zero.
I then returned to work part time and bub went to a long daycare centre three days per week. Working part time was stressful because the other half of my job wasn’t getting backfilled and I felt guilty about not finishing all the work.
When I had my second child, I thought that with two children at home I would take a year off work to spend with them. However, I didn’t have enough accumulated long service leave. So I took leave without pay. I did, however, access the governmental leave this time which added a little extra time and income, but was still tough while paying a mortgage. Again, my husband took only two weeks of holiday leave due to his firm belief that his job couldn’t do without him. He’s been conditioned to believe men stay at work while women take maternity leave. This is despite the fact that I earned more than him and it would have been wise for us to split our time taking care of the children.
After the third child, I was even more keen to get back to work as being at home with children every day is hard work! I needed to get back into the workforce and get some mental stimulation again. However, we are now a family paying for early learning at a long daycare centre, preschool and before-and-after school care. It is by far our largest expense and even though both my husband and I work full time and are on decent wages, it’s still a blow when it’s taken out of our account. Holiday care, if we can get places, is another huge expense.
My career has taken a back seat while men around me have continued to advance in their roles. I’ve had to re-do training courses and am now at a stage where I’m frustrated and feeling quite despondent that I have to keep overtly advocating for myself to advance. (One of my young male colleagues, though, has just taken parental leave for some months and it’s fantastic to see!)
The staff in the early learning centres we’ve been involved with have been amazing. They (the women and two men we’ve come across) do a job that I could never do. They spend so much time educating and guiding our children in the fundamental first five years while children’s brains are like sponges. They should be rewarded far more than they are.
There is evidence that children, women and society as a whole are more prosperous when women are supported in returning to work. There should be more focus on achieving this.
If you would like to share your story please email Maddy at [email protected]